I have watched a ton of videos on mastering. After it is all said and done, I can’t hear much of a difference. I know that is a lame statement. I know you must have good levels, EQ etc close before even making the attempt. I use studio one professional and it has mastering. The dude on the video used stock plug ins for EQ, compression, and limiting. His basic premise was to only tweak ever so slightly your original track. I would just like to hear something you did that to you or some of us thought was very close, and then a track after you had some professional master it. Love to hear the difference.
Not necessarily, because:
If you have a good mix to begin with, not a lot should have to be done to it. Possibly even nothing, if it doesn’t need it. Mastering can be a double-check system, or as we usually say “another set of ears on it”. The results are likely to be more objective that way. And professional mastering engineers usually have a very good room to work and listen in, and are basically specializing in that one aspect of audio.
It sounds like you’re willing to give it a shot yourself, since you have some tools and now some knowledge. If possible, just give it a try and post the results before and after as a BTR and we can give feedback. I don’t think there are right or wrong answers really, it’s all learning and exploration. So no need to feel shy about giving it a shot. Some pro’s even refer to mastering as a “black art” as if there is some kind of magic and mystery to it. I think that just means it can be “deep” and yet subtle.
The traditional role of mastering is to make sure your song translates on a wide variety of audio systems (which is a bit more varied now with lots of people listening on laptops and ear buds), and to get it to what is considered a professional standard or “radio ready”.
Ultimately though, I suspect what you’re after is a good sounding, interesting and appealing song that people will want to listen to start to finish.
Hi Stan Yeah, that was some great advice. Yes, I have been on vacation for a couple weeks and nowhere to record. I didn’t realize that I knew more than I did when I actually understood what the guy was saying in the youtube studio one video. He was saying things like too much compression causes a resultant pumping sound etc. It was good that he demonstrated what happens to the mix when you overdo it. I am sure it is to taste, but he did some strange things like not cut any of the lows until 30. He said he wanted more out of the kick drum. I kinda get that. He also said he always makes a slight cut between 450-500 on most mixes for vocal clarity and then a boost at 2k. I bet that was just his thing? He said he did it for a living??
I almost feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to master not having the schooling. I remember when I had to have help with computers when it was all dos commands. I felt liberated after windows came out. Bye bye smart asses. ha ha I am going to dip into the pool and see what comes out. I will post a before and after. thanks for the BS session
I don’t know if there’s even a “school of mastering” per se, and I’d also question whether there’s a “mastering police” that’s going to come after you and charge you with a crime against music.
Did you need a ‘license’ to start making music, to play an instrument, to sing? Did it kind of suck when you first tried? How about mixing? We all jump into it not knowing our hiney from a hole in the ground and then progress from there. Sure, there are schools people can go to for music related skills, but also platinum selling artists who would struggle to tell you which chords they’re playing and why. Just like with musical influences, gather some impressions and information on mastering, and then try out your own “take” on it. Even if you fail at first, you can always get better from there. It’s all somewhat subjective anyway, just like music.
One thing I would recommend is that you export your final mix as a 44.1/24 WAV file (or whatever you feel is the best format) and then try mastering your mix in a separate session. And you can do several different masters and see which you like better. So there’s not really anything to lose (except maybe time ), and everything to gain in terms of knowledge and experience. If nothing else, you may understand the process better if you ever choose to pay a pro masterer to do it for you.
Can you please share the link to that video? Thanks!
I listened to many, but I think this one was the most helpful?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9AQ6uRFQN4
Fortunately, you’re old enough to remember when mastering was a necessity to make a two track stereo tape into vinyl. There were a ton of variables to consider to keep the stylus tracking since the tape had more dynamic range and bass than the record could handle. You sometimes had to even compensate for the position of the track on the record because of the way the grooves worked towards the center.
Now, the main thing is to squeeze as much volume out of a track as possible, mostly because people are conditioned to dislike music that’s not as loud as the last thing they heard.
A good master will make your songs sound cohesive together, and will average out eq problems over a variety of playback systems. Beyond that, you need to go to guys like Bob Katz to do all of the above while not eliminating the dynamic range and sense of space available in the recording. Some of the art in it, at least in popular music, is a casualty of the loudness wars.
Thanks for the link, Paul.
Nice simple and useful tutorial. I actually imported an MP3 mix of one of my heavy hits into Reaper and copied his settings using freebies from Reaper.
Turned out pretty well, but also made me wonder why I just didn’t mix it better in the first place.
Been a while…
My take on mastering is that it is as much about having a second set of ears and a great monitoring system than anything else. Others are right, it doesn’t always take a lot of work to get a mix into shape, then again sometimes it takes a whole lot, just depends on how good the mix engineer is. My experience is that the mix engineers monitoring is everything in getting it right. If he/she understands the limits of their system then your job as a mastering engineer is way easier.
If you are going to master yourself, listen to the results on as many sources as you can if your monitors are suspect. The suggestion that you do it after a good amount of time is a great idea. You need to try to step back before jumping back in to correct things. I would say if possible, start your mastering on a different set of monitors that you regular pair when possible. It will at least give you a different perspective. That can include a good set of headphones if that is what you have to work with.
I get where you are coming from on the different speaker try. After I make a song a play it back on my Mackie speakers, it sounds decent. When I listen on my cans, the bass sounds way too loud. Great suggestion, because I also have some mid size speakers I could keep right in the studio and flip to those for comparison. The question, is why didn’t I think of that. I am getting into mastering a little and can deff hear differences when playing with both the EQ and Limiter. Fun stuff. Thanks for your comment and good to see you round these parts again.